As integrated care systems (ICSs) form, there’s an opportunity for a reset in how pharmacy is seen by the rest of the system. However, we all know the current system is close to breaking. That may seem bleak, but there are opportunities:
- System pressures: getting access to funding for things that relieve pressure elsewhere is becoming easier;
- Primary Care Networks (PCNs): these come with funding for pharmacy services, which can be revolutionary. PCNs are also being incentivised to collaborate with community pharmacy;
- Prescribing: it’s not long until all graduates coming out of university will be independent prescribers. What services will they work into? And what happens to people already in the system who are not prescribers?
- The money: the one thing most likely to get a chief executive sacked is the money. We need to convince ICS chief executives that ‘doing medicines’ the right way is economically viable;
- Sustainability: medicines make up 25% of the carbon footprint of the NHS, and have other effects on water pollution etc; we should become leaders of sustainable healthcare.
I could go on but I hope this gives a flavour of my optimism and ambition.
Of course, there’s a risk that if we don’t get ourselves around the right tables we will miss an opportunity that won’t come around again until the next NHS reorganisation.
While people in positions such as mine can lobby for pharmacy locally, it needs to be done nationally as well. The only way to do this is by having a strong professional body, which advocates well for us at NHSE and DHSC level.
I hear people say ‘the RPS doesn’t do anything I value’, and I understand that. But I’d encourage you to look broader and if you care about things such as the community pharmacy contract, workforce planning and investment, postgraduate education and specialist career development support then I would argue you need to support the RPS.
I think for it to be the organisation we need it to be, it’s essential the national boards have a broad range of perspectives and expertise. I bring with me the view from an emerging ICS and it’s important that the RPS hears and understands this for it to be effective.
Ewan Maule, English Pharmacy Board candidate